“In 2014, my wife Cathy and I sold all of our possessions and moved to Africa with all we owned in two suitcases each.” Randy Coutts, Fixer. Builder & Operations Specialist
The class of 2003 was celebrating, basking in the “mission accomplished” feeling. The glow of walking across the immense stage to collect our diplomas was still fresh in our memories. We took turns at the podium to say thank you to our families, professors and the ever-supportive OEGP (now CFAME) team. There was even talk of a reunion in 2004, in a location where there was sun, sand & sea. It was a great idea, but we all knew that this night would never have a repeat. It was both an ending and a beginning. Or as T.S. Eliot wrote many years ago, “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”
Randy Coutts was in my graduating class of 2003. Now, fourteen years later, we reconnected over the phone and shared the stories that came after graduation. Randy’s interests center on social responsibility, international business and entrepreneurial endeavour. His message is “I’m an ideas guy, a coach, a student and a runner. If you want to change the world, give me a call.”
One Acre Fund (OAF) allowed him to explore his core values and participate in creating entrepreneurial opportunities in Africa.
“In 2014, my wife Cathy and I sold all of our possessions and moved to Africa with all we owned in two suitcases each.” Randy recounted. “We travelled East Africa together for 18 months, spending a lot of time in Western Kenya, Nairobi and Rwanda, but also touching down in Burundi, Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania. We stayed in accommodations ranging from a dormitory style convent to fancy, world class hotels and logged enough air miles to get to the coveted “priority” status with our local airline. Along the way we had many adventures, saw many strange things and met people from all corners of this earth.”
One Acre Fund was my opportunity to combine my business skills, with my philanthropic mindset and a passion for travel. I had always wanted to join an international microfinance organization, but I also wanted it to be one that had an entrepreneurial spirit. OAF, which is a US based charity, runs most of its African operations under a social enterprise (SE) model, where they charge people a fair price for extraordinary value. I spent two years in charge of the finance function for this fast-growing social enterprise, where we went from an annual budget of $40M USD to $100M USD and from 200,000 clients to 500,000 clients across 8 East African countries. The implementation of a world class SAP Business One accounting system, the preparation to centralize all African finance functions to Kigali, Rwanda and the introduction of the first Financial Services Advisory team to our country leadership, were my greatest accomplishments.
I used virtually all my MBA (FS) teachings. Perhaps even more importantly than the technical skills I carried forward, Dalhousie instilled within me a sense of wonder and an appreciation for learning that did me well in this chaotic, incredibly fast paced and risk filled atmosphere. My greatest takeaway: Keeping my eyes and ears open, my mouth somewhat more closed and being open to possibilities and opportunities.
Changing the world begins with creating communities of learning wherever we go.”
I am so glad that we reconnected after fourteen years, Randy! We have had many adventures since our convocation in 2003. And I look forward to many more awaiting our arrival. Thank you for sharing your experience.
Thanks Randy for sharing your story, it must have been a wonderful experience and so rewarding. I look forward to hearing more about your next adventure.
All my best!